On the Shelf Review: More Adventures in Arkham Country

Before beginning, full disclosure is both appropriate and lengthy.  Thus, I should state that I received this as a review copy, I know a few of the authors from previous experiences, that I’m a partner in another company publishing for Call of Cthulhu, and that I’m nonetheless working with Miskatonic River Press on at least one future project.  I’m also quite a fan of the original Adventures in Arkham Country, so some comparison to that book is inevitable here.

More Adventures in Arkham Country is the latest release from Miskatonic River Press, and a successor to the Lovecraft Country line for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game, overseen by Keith “Doc” Herber.  Turning away from the previous model of globe-trotting campaigns, Lovecraft Country scenarios have emphasized the Miskatonic River locations from Lovecraft’s fiction, feature threats of a local character, and focus upon characterization as the driver for the plot.

Six scenarios appear in the book:

“Shades of Tomorrow Lost,” by Scott David Aniolowski – A strange epidemic of sleep strikes the dreamy seaport of Kingsport, and an investigator is a victim.  This is the book’s strongest scenario, with a memorable cult, a striking antagonist and his human assistant, and memorable trips across the boundary between sleep and wakefulness.  Not only is the scenario highly grounded in the local landscape, however, but it also makes the jump to cosmic significance, a difficult task to pull off in a LC scenario but one that Aniolowski handles with grace.

“Ghosts of the Florentina,” by Bret Kramer – A haunting in a restored Kingsport theater brings the investigators into contact with the vestiges of an old wizard.  This is a research-intensive scenario, and those who try to decipher the mystery without doing the groundwork will find themselves in trouble quickly.   The investigators will likely find themselves needing to delve deeply and separate fact from fancy to solve the enigma.

“The Crystal Cavern,” by Brian Courtemanche – A former tourist attraction near the town of Foxfield (a creation of Lovecraft never used in his stories) is the site of mysterious accidents.  Sadly, this scenario tries to bridge the gap between the local and the cosmic and ends up in an uncomfortable middle ground.  Most of the characters fill stereotypical roles, and while the chief site discussed is striking, it never seems as compelling as it could have been.  That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with this scenario – it does what it sets out to do, the characters behave realistically, the plot is coherent – but it could have done more.

“Engine Trouble,” by Tom Lynch – Investigators traveling off the Aylesbury Pike run into a mysterious wreck at a covered bridge and must stop an evil before it can start.  The backstory and adversaries in this brief scenario set it apart from many scenarios, and the investigators will have a memorable scramble to combat the forces arrayed against them.  I would recommend to dispense with the scenario’s “do they have equipment?” setup, as an ill-armed team will have little chance of success.  Nonetheless, it should make for an entertaining interlude.

“Spare the Rod,” by Adam Gauntlett – Investigators looking into one of Arkham’s most famous legends encounter its dark echoes in their own time.  This is my second favorite of all those in the book, with a terrible foe, fascinating occult aspects, a strong research component, and multiple parties working toward their own goals.  I might recommend that the investigators be simply assigned to look into this particular legend, as the freewheeling aspect of earlier parts might send the group in too many directions.  Nonetheless, this is an excellent introduction to some of Arkham’s darkest history.

“The Hopeful,” by Oscar Rios – A student at Miskatonic University’s swim team is being investigated for morals before he is assigned to the Olympic swim team.  Some readers will think they have the scenario figured out from that sentence, and they’ll be both right and wrong.  This is another strong offering which will favor investigators who are able to follow multiple routes of investigation and savvy with regard to ticklish situations.

The book itself, I have to say, is quite beautiful, with detailed handouts and beautiful artwork.  The cover was especially striking; M. commented favorably upon it in the bookstore before knowing it was a Miskatonic River Press production.

Overall, this is a strong contribution to the Lovecraft Country line.  The best of the scenarios are quite good, and even those that aren’t so strong could make for a solid evening’s entertainment.  If you’re interested in running a Lovecraft Country game, or 1920s Call of Cthulhu in general, this will be worth your investment.

Published in: on September 8, 2010 at 9:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

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